The Passat may be as important to Chattanooga, Tennessee as the Choo-Choo or the Outlooks Double-A baseball team. Roughly 2,000 local residents build the Volkswagen Passat for consumption in North America, Korea and the Middle East. The American built Passat is also important to another group of people: the executives of Volkswagen.
|1. An entry-level 2.5L 5-cylinder engine makes 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the automatic..
3. Priced from $20,845 our SEL Premium test car retails for $30,425.
When the Tennessee plant first opened in 2011, the Volkswagen faithful were up in arms. Worried the German engineered Passat would be diluted in is relocation stateside, they wrote off the Passat right from the start.
But one other (very important) group of people did not turn their backs on the Passat: consumers. At 117,023 units sold last year, Passat sales have never been stronger; up over 400% from 2011 when the Passat was in the process of immigrating to the USA. So for 2013 one can’t really blame Volkswagen for not changing the formula too much.
The sales success of the Passat has occurred in no small part to a drastic price reduction. An entry level 2013 Volkswagen Passat S has a starting price of $21,640 after delivery charges. That is over $6,000 cheaper than the previous generation Passat. How was this achieved? Well, stripped out content, lowered production costs and the inclusion of a new base engine. For 2012, the Passat received the 2.5 L five-cylinder engine that also finds a home in the smaller Jetta and Golf.
Wanting to see if this engine either murders the Passat or makes it a more viable competitor against mainstream four cylinder family sedans, we rang up Volkswagen to set-up a test drive. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the test vehicle arrived kitted to the nines. The Passat was furnished as a 2.5L SEL Premium; the highest rung in the 2.5L family. If that weren’t enough, a rear lip spoiler ($375) and TDI/V6 18-inch wheels (price unknown) were fitted bringing the total to $31,595 plus the cost of those wheels. Although a nearly 50% price increase over the base model may seem a bit steep, the price still falls in line with the Honda Accord EX-L, Chevrolet Malibu 2.5 L LTZ and a loaded up Ford Fusion SE 1.6 L.
The SEL Premium stuffs the Passat with the usual mid-size sedan luxuries like an 8-way adjustable power driver’s seat, Satellite radio, Fender audio system, leather seats with Dinamica inserts, push button start and a remote starter. The soft touch materials used inside are of quality, but the overall styling design lacks something that made the old Passat feel more special. There are also plastic accents on the dashboard and center console that have been finished in a very cheesy looking fake carbon fiber pattern.
As comfortable as the front seats are, the inclusion of 9th and 10th direction of adjustment on the front of the seat, to allow for the seat cushion to be tilted back, would go a long way to improve overall driver position.
On the plus side, the infotainment system is intuitive to use thanks to a straight forward combination of buttons and touch screen controls. As well, there is the rare inclusion of an item officially registered on the endangered-features-list; a radio tuning dial. The Fender audio system sounds great, as should be expected. It is one of the better 'everyman' stereo systems out there.
Rear seat space is massive and offers 39.1-inches of legroom. The seats are comfortable and have nicely placed armrest, but headroom is a bit lacking for anyone over 6-feet tall. A nice touch in the back is having an extra coat hook installed on the B-pillar. The trunk is also cavernous with 15.9 cu-ft of capacity.
But the big question is how does it drive? The 2.5 L inline-5 cylinder develops 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Although this output is actually lower than basically every four-cylinder mid-size sedan competitor, it doesn’t feel slow. The 3,221 lb Passat feels more than capable of achieving a 0-60 MPH run in the officially claimed 8.7 seconds. As an added bonus, despite being roughly the same size as its competitors, the 2.5 L engine produces a far better on-throttle growl thanks to that extra cylinder.
Sending power to the front wheels is a 6-speed automatic transmission that is very good, but not quite at the same level as Volkswagen’s DSG semi-automatic transmission. It is fairly prompt to change gears, and sport mode does quicken things; just don’t expect DSG levels of fun. As well, the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are too small and too far inward. Even the longest hands with lengthiest of digits will have to stretch out to find these paddles.
See Also: 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL V6 Review
Power in the city is great, and initial step-off torque feels better than a four-cylinder engine, but worse than a six-cylinder; surprise surprise. On the highway, power does begin to run out and passing maneuvers north of 70 MPH requires a bit of forethought. The SEL Premium Passat is officially rated at 22 MPG city and 1 MPG highway. Our observed fuel economy was 26 MPG which tops a trio of four cylinder family sedans recently tested: the Accord, Camry and Malibu. It should be noted though that the Passat did encounter more highway driving than any of those vehicles.
Now on to the most controversial debate of the new Passat – has it lost its German road manners? The short answer – slightly. The Passat no longer feels a half step below a luxury car in polish and comfort.
That said, it’s still a refined and solid ride; better than the Camry we recently tested and probably better than the Accord as well. Handling and steering feel are on par with the Accord, meaning above average in this class.
Despite all of these attributes, the Passat still seems relegated to the sidelines of the mid-size family sedan market. Ask someone to name a family sedan and Accord or Camry are usually the first to be blurted out. Sales reflect this too as the Passat was outsold 4 to 1 by the Toyota Camry in 2012. As mentioned before, sales are picking up and Volkswagen can only hope more and more people will give their competitive, attractively priced Passat a look.